The love story of Utkarsh Saxena and Ananya Kotia started like any college romance. However, no one knew of the gay couple’s relationship.
It was 2008. Homosexuality was still unacceptable in conservative India, and many gay couples faced stigma and loneliness. Therefore, Saxena and Cotia spent a lot of time researching the changes in people who accepted homosexuality from a distance.
“We were actually very scared of the consequences,” says Saxena, a professor of public policy at the University of Oxford. “We were a very fragile and vulnerable young couple discovering themselves, so I didn’t want to take the plunge that would break us in a way.”
Years later, when Indian society became homosexual and much of the country’s LGBTQ community openly celebrated their sexuality, the couple decided to open their relationship to friends and family. . Most people accepted it.
After 15 years of dating, they took on a bigger challenge and filed a petition in India’s Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage. Three other same-sex couples have filed similar petitions, which are due to be heard before the country’s Supreme Court in March.
Legalizing same-sex marriage would make India the second largest economy in Asia after Taiwan and would be a key right for the country’s LGBTQ community more than four years after the Supreme Court outlawed gay sex.
A favorable ruling would also make India the largest democracy with such rights for LGBTQ couples, but would run counter to the ruling Hindu nationalist government’s stance against same-sex marriage.
“Our relationship has been undefined in a social sense for a long time, and from now on, I want it to be accepted like any other couple’s relationship,” Saxena said.
Over the past decade, India has seen an expansion of legal rights for LGBTQ people, with most of that change brought about by Supreme Court interventions.
In 2014, it legally recognized nonbinary and transgender people as a “third gender,” and three years later made a person’s sexual orientation an intrinsic attribute of privacy.
A landmark 2018 ruling that overthrew a colonial-era law punishing same-sex relationships with up to 10 years in prison expanded constitutional rights for the gay community.
The ruling was seen as a landmark victory for gay rights, and one judge said it “paved the way for a better future.”
But the legal recognition of same-sex marriage has met resistance from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A court case last year said same-sex marriage would “completely disrupt the delicate balance of the country’s personal law.”
Sushil Modi, a member of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, told parliament in December that such marriages were “against the country’s cultural ethics” and had “several judges” decide on the issue. said it should not be entrusted.
But India’s Supreme Court is showing signs of challenging the government’s stance.
In January, the panel, consisting of the chief justice and two justices, said the government’s opposition to appointing homosexual judges was partly due to their sexual orientation. The Indian federal government has not responded to the allegations.
By denying same-sex marriage, same-sex couples and LGBTQ activists say the government is depriving same-sex couples of their constitutional equal rights and opportunities enjoyed by married heterosexual couples.
“Basically, they have to be treated like any other citizen. At home, says Ruth Banita, author of Love Rituals: Same-Sex Marriage in India and the West.
Marriage in India is governed by a variety of laws tailored to the country’s religious organisations, as well as a secular law called the “Special Marriage Act” for interfaith couples. All restrict marriage between men and women.
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